Some 73km southwest of Machala, HUAQUILLAS is a chaotic, jerry-built, mosquito-ridden border town. Its main commercial street is lined by hundreds of hectic market stalls selling cheap clothes, shoes, bags, food and electrical goods, while enormous shop signs hang over their canopies from dilapidated buildings on either side. Most visitors crossing the border avoid staying here by spending the night in Machala, but if you need a place to sleep you’ll find clean, modest rooms with private bathrooms, air conditioning and cable TVs at the Hotel Hernancor on 1 de Mayo and Hualtaco, while the cheaper Rodey, Teniente Córdovez and 10 de Agosto, has only fans. There are a number of inexpensive canteens, but good restaurants include La Habana, T. Córdovez and Santa Rosa, for its affordable seafood, grills, breakfast and almuerzos, and El Flamingo, Avenida de la República and Costa Rica, for cakes, shakes and ice creams. Internet facilities are available at Hot Net, Avenida de la República and Santa Rosa.
Crossing the border
Crossing the border
The Río Zarumilla, hugging the southwestern edge of Huaquillas, forms the border, and is crossed by the international bridge leading to the small town of Aguas Verdes in Peru. Before crossing it, you’ll need to get your exit stamp at the Ecuadorian immigration office (open 24hr), 2km east of Huaquillas on the road from Machala ($2 by taxi). If you’re coming here straight from Machala, bus drivers will drop you at the office on the way into Huaquillas (remind them as they sometimes forget), but won’t wait for you while you get your exit stamp, usually a fairly fast and painless process. From here, hop on a bus or take a taxi to the bridge, which you’ll have to cross on foot. On the other side, Peruvian officials may check your passport, but entry stamps are normally obtained at the main Peruvian immigration office at Zarumilla, a few kilometres away. It can be reached by mototaxis for about a dollar or by various other forms of transport that continue on to Tumbes, 27km south: regular buses, which won’t wait for you while you get your passport stamped; taxis ($6, including wait at Zarumilla; firm bargaining required); or colectivos (about $0.75), though drivers are sometimes reluctant to wait at Zarumilla. Once in Tumbes, it’s easy to find a direct bus to Piura, Trujillo or Lima.
It’s quite a stressful experience, with a bevy of moneychangers, bus touts, bag carriers and taxi drivers jostling for your business and plenty of thieves around as well – keep your wits about you and never lose sight of your bags. Change as little money as possible, as the rates aren’t good unless you bargain hard. Official moneychangers in Ecuador wear IDs, but always check calculations and cash received before handing anything over.